“Is music the key to success?” asked the headline to an article from The New York Times, reproduced in The Hindu on October 23, 2013. The author of the article, Joanne Lipmann, had interviewed many people to seek an answer to the question.
A common factor among most successful people is their love of music which they play on different instruments. None of them ascribe the success in his or her profession to their practising of music, but some of them feel there is some connect between their music and their professional success though they are not sure what exactly the connection could be.
Albert Einstein was a lover of music and could be seen very often playing on the violin. One of the songs that fascinated him was the simple nursery song that went, “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” His favourite part of the song was “When the blazing sun is gone, when there nothing shines upon, then you show your little light, twinkle twinkle all the night.”
Obviously, the limitless cosmos with all its galaxies, suns and planets which he could visualise as a scientist was brought to his mind by this simple song in the simplest of words.
An incident in his life brings out his eagerness that everyone should learn music. A young man had learnt music and could sing well but was too shy to sing before other people. At a party in his honour, Einstein was told of the boy’s shyness. Einstein took the boy into a room, talked to him for a long time and when they returned to the hall, the boy sang very well indeed. The host asked the scientist, “where were you all the time”? The reply was: “We have just opened a door to beauty”. The idea was that music opens the mind to beauty when the mind experiences immense joy.
This aspect of the power of music is well brought out by saint-poet and composer Tyagaraja, in a short kriti on the benefits of learning music, sangeetha sastra gnaanamu (in Mukhaari ragam). The saint says if music is learnt in accordance with the scientific basis on which it has been developed, it leads to unlimited joy equal to the joy God is always enjoying.
According to our systems of philosophy God is sath chith and aananda or gnaana anandaika swaroopa. God is the embodiment of joy.
What benefits this joyous state of mind brings to the musician are listed in the song. A joyous mind is a clear mind that does not suffer from such distractions as anger, sorrow, jealousy and greed. Such a clear mind is capable of sizing up and solving even difficult problems easily.
The Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, K. Radhakrishnan, a keen student of Carnatic music, was asked how music helped him be at the helm of ISRO. He responded that music soothes and acts as a tonic for the stresses that we invariably have to go through in our professional life. When I am in the car, I listen to Carnatic music and often sing along, he said.
My acquaintances often praise me for my memory. I attribute this to the music practice that I have been doing regularly. Music is also nada yoga that could elevate one’s mental faculties. I wish to be a student of that vast ocean of music.